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HomeBusinessIranian drug lord and B.C. gangster charged for murder-for-hire plot involving Iranian government 

Iranian drug lord and B.C. gangster charged for murder-for-hire plot involving Iranian government 

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Bob Mackin 

A U.S. grand jury indictment unsealed Jan. 29 alleges a full-patch Hells Angel from B.C. used a defunct Vancouver company’s encrypted phone service to plot murders for a drug lord connected to the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

Damion Patrick Ryan (VPD)

Damion Patrick John Ryan, 43, is charged, along with fellow Canadian Adam Richard Pearson, 29, and Iranian Naji Sharifi Zindashti, 49, for conspiracy to use interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot between December 2020 and March 2021.

The three men were also sanctioned Monday by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control. 

The U.S. District Court filing said the trio and an Iran-based co-conspirator used the end-to-end encrypted Sky ECC mobile communications service to share photographs of the victims and maps identifying their locations. They also allegedly used the clandestine platform to recruit personnel to assist in the killings, discuss logistics of the murders and negotiate payment for associated expenses. 

U.S. authorities shut down SkyECC and its Vancouver parent company, SkyGlobal, in March 2021 and charged two men with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. 

According to the indictment, Ryan and Zindashti communicated in December 2020 and January 2021 about various topics. The co-conspirator tasked Ryan to form a team of gunmen to travel to Maryland to commit the murders.

Ryan allegedly messaged Pearson on Sky ECC about a job in Maryland, telling him that he needed at least two, and likely three, people, including a driver. During negotiations about money, Pearson allegedly told Ryan that he would encourage recruits to “shoot [the victim] in the head a lot [to] make example.” 

The indictment said Zindashti and Ryan agreed to $350,000, plus $20,000 for travel expenses. The co-conspirator sent him photos of a man and woman and maps. In March 2021, the co-conspirator allegedly arranged a $20,000 payment to Ryan for travel expenses associated with the murder plot. 

All three are charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire. Pearson is also charged with possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice and possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully in the U.S. 

Ryan is already in custody after his February 2023 arrest in Ottawa on illegal firearms and ammunition possession and trafficking charges following a February 2022 raid of a home in Ottawa. 

Naji Sharifi Zindashti (FBI)

Ryan is a full patch member of a Hells Angels chapter in Greece, but also associated with the Wolfpack gang in B.C. One of the Wolfpack members, Rabih Alkhalil, escaped from the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in July 2022 while on trial for a 2012 murder. Alkhalil was convicted in absentia but remains at large. 

In May 2021, Vancouver Police Department included Ryan in their “top six” public warning poster. 

Ryan was the target of a failed April 2015 shooting in the food court at Vancouver International Airport. Hitman Knowah Ferguson had been promised $200,000, but was convicted of attempted murder and conspiracy and sentenced to 11 years. 

Ryan and Pearson were sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, along with Iranians Nihat Abdulkadir Asan, Reza Hamidiravari, Ekrem Abdulkerym Oztunc and Shahram Ali Reza Tamarzadeh Zavieh Jakki.

Hamidiravari was identified as an officer in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security who oversees Zindashti’s MOIS-directed operations. 

SkyECC was marketed by Vancouver-based SkyGlobal as a protected method to share secure audio messages and images and self-destructing messages. But U.S. authorities in San Diego charged West Vancouverite CEO Jean-Francois Eap and distributor Thomas Hermann in March 2021 with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for selling encrypted phones to transnational drug criminals. SkyGlobal and its SkyECC service were immediately shut down, but the case against Eap and Herdman has yet to be tried. 

Eap said in March 2021 that he did not condone illegal activity and said he would work to clear his name. 

During the fall trial of disgraced former RCMP civilian intelligence officer Cameron Ortis, Eap was identified as an associate of Vincent Ramos. Ramos was CEO of Richmond’s Phantom Secure, which sold encrypted BlackBerry smartphones to criminals. Ramos was arrested in 2018, convicted in 2019 and sentenced to nine years in a U.S. prison. 

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